On March 12, 1928 the St. Francis dam, in the San Francisco canyon (LA), collapsed because of clogged piping and cracks in its side and foundation. The flood that it caused killed 600 people and flattened the city of Santa Paula. The St. Francis dam was built to provide ample water to Los Angeles in an event of a natural disaster. Dams are important for the society because of their ability to stop water flow. Since the water flow of a body of water is stopped, and then all of the water would start to build up and create a much larger body of water.
In the year 1924, the St. Francis Dam’s construction was started. It was built to provide ample water supply to Los Angeles in time of a natural disaster; the final height of the dam was 195 feet (59 meters). The overall length of the dam was 608 feet (185 meters). The St. Francis dam was impounded in the San Francisco Creek to stop the water flow in the creek to make a larger body of water for future supply. The construction of the St. Francis dam started in the year 1924 by the chief engineer William Mullholand. By July, in the year of 1925, the dam was half completed. This was also when the safety features were added on to the dam. The final opening date of the dam was 1926, however the dam only lasted for about 12 to 15 hours before it collapsed/ failed.
The initial safety features of the St. Francis dam were added when it was only half way finished, in July 1925. The first feature was that the dam was raised 10 feet. This increased its capacity from 30,000 acre-feet to 32,000 acre-feet. After this major addition, other minor additions were added to the dam (as in height additions). After the minor height additions, another major addition was added; the height was raised up to its final height of 195 feet. That made the dam’s capacity from 32,000 acre-feet to 38,000 acre-feet. The final safety addition that was added was a “wing dike”; a wing dike is a manmade formation made out of dirt that looks like wings of birds. They were used to slow down water flow or to control water flow. The particular wing dike on the St. Francis dam was added on top of the western side of the dam to prevent flooding. (Bright, 2012)
Dams can be put into use many ways. One way would be for making electricity. Dams can make electricity/ power for the community surrounding them. They did this by having water flow through massive turbines that turn when the water flows through them. The power is produced when the water flows through them. An example of a dam that produces electricity/ power is the Hoover dam. Another way that dams can be used is for water supply. They did this by blocking off a source of water like a steam, river, or a creek. After the water source is blocked off, it has nowhere to go so it starts to build up behind the dam and creates a large body of water. Once the large body of water is created, the water is used for drinking or for other things. An example of a dam that does this is the Quabbin Reservoir dam. The St. Francis dam was also used for this reason; to block a flowing water supply in order to make a large body of water for future supply. The St. Francis dam was created for ample water for the community in case of a natural disaster. (David, 1995)
Within a two-year period, the St. Francis dam has been through many things contributing towards its failure. After the dam failed, it lead to the destruction of many things. The chief engineer in charge of the St. Francis dam, William Mullholand, started the construction of the dam in the year of 1924. By the year 1925, the St. Francis dam was half way into its completion; this was when all of the safety features were implemented into the dam. They were the increasing of its height, first by raising it 10 feet, then raising it up to its final height of 195 feet. After a wing dike was added to the top of the western side of the dam to prevent flooding. In the year 1928, March 12, the St. Francis dam was filled to capacity. The dam could hold up to 38,000 acre-feet of water. Several hours before the St. Francis dam failed, he water level inside of it dropped 1.6 feet from its original height. The reason why that this happened was that there were cracks in the foundation and the side of the dam that all of the water was leaking out of. On that same day, at 11:57 pm, the dam failed. The force of the water coming out of it was so strong that it carried large pieces of the dam with it up to a half a mile away. The valley that the water was flowing into was drowned in up to 110 feet of water, in that valley, a power station was lost. By 12:40 am, the water was traveling at speeds of 12.8 mph. Then when the water hit Fillmore at 2:20, it was traveling at 12.3 mph. the city of Santa Paula was flattened at 3:05 am, at this time; the water was travelling at 11.2 mph. At 4:05 am, the water that was released from the dam flattened Saticoy; the water was traveling at 7.4 mph. when the water finally got to the ocean, its width was about 2 miles long and it was traveling at 5.9 mph. The water got to the ocean at 4:05 am; it had traveled a total of 54 miles in less than six hours from the failed St. Francis dam to the ocean. (Scripps, 2014)
The main reasons why the St. Francis dam failed were because for one, it had too many cracks in its foundation and side. There were so many cracks in the side of the dam because of its poor foundation; the foundation was only made of dirt which leads to the dam shaking; this lead to the water leaking out of the dam. This was proven because several hours before the St. Francis dam failed, the water level inside of it dropped 1.6 feet from its original height. Another reason why the St. Francis dam failed was because of its hydraulic piping. Apparently the piping inside of the dam was out dated; because of this it got clogged and stopped all of the other pipes inside of the dam to stop working. This could be dam could be redesigned by making stronger foundation. Another way that the St. Francis dam could be improved would be to use hydraulic piping that was up to date instead of piping that was of an older time. (David, 1995)
One result of the failure of the St. Francis dam was that many cities were destroyed or flattened. This was because of the powerful water flow that came out of the dam. Another result of the St. Francis dam failure was that nearly 600 people were killed. This was from the populations of the cities that were flattened like the city Santa Paula. This tragedy leads to the demise of the chief engineer of the St. Francis dam, William Mullholand. Sadly, some infrastructures around the world fail early, and some fail later. The St. Francis dam was one infrastructure that failed early when it was built leading to the deaths of around 600 people.
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